I’ve run quite a few races.
I can still remember the thrill of getting my first ever medal, for the Bupa London 10k back in 2011. That combined with wearing a race bib like a ‘proper runner’ made me feel immense pride. Being awful at sports and having attended school before the ‘everyone gets recognition’ approach they have now it was the first tangible item I’d earned for my physical performance. I was holding something my podgy and uncoordinated body had sweated and worked for. It was awesome.
I went home and hung up the medal over my door handle and proudly framed the bib.
As my interest in running grew I went through a variety of medal racks as my collection expanded. From my first marathon I had a secret desire to join the 100 Marathon Club but didn’t dare look to see what I needed to do (for fear of admitting my silly goal) so I neatly filed my race bibs along with a print out of the results in case it was ever needed (for anyone wondering, no it’s not, they just need a spreadsheet with the races on).
Over the years I’ve stuck to this anally retentive approach, with every medal and bib filed by chronological date, sub-divided by distance. Ask to see the medal from the Brighton marathon and I know I ran it in 2013, just after a local marathon by Enigma Running and before London, so there it is, nestling on the rack in the correct place. The bib will be in a folder in the same place, with my finishers cert as well.
If it’s a 10k you’re after then that’s a separate folder and a separate rack as I’ve outgrown the marathon one. Keeping the bib and medal was everything to me as I plugged away at 100 marathons.
Fast forward to this year and I’m on something like 140 marathons and ultras. It’s probably quite telling I don’t know the definite number any more. It’s not that I don’t love running, but the accumulation of lines on spreadsheets, bibs in folders and medals on racks is now less relevant.
With the issues of 2020 there haven’t been many medals but I’ve still struggled to muster the enthusiasm to hang them up. I’ve enjoyed every race (well except Watford Half where I fell apart and got overtaken by every runner I know) but the bibs and medals were in a pile on the floor awaiting attention. It was only this week whilst patiently waiting for my virtual London Marathon pack to arrive that I mustered the energy to hang the marathon and ultra medals from this year (shorter stuff still on the floor):
- Milton Keynes reimagined marathon – first time running with an app to direct you on the course and continued my ever-present streak at the event
- Shires & Spires – my mate Maff’s first ultra where he fell apart and we
laughed at him
- An Enigma marathon – my mate Neil’s 100th marathon
- The Enigma marathon I ran on the date of the London Marathon in biblical rain, to earn my virtual London Marathon medal.
All of these are significant in their own way and it’s the memories I want to keep, not the lump of mass produced metal that comes with it.
Finally nearly three weeks after running the virtual London, my finishers pack hit the door mat. I opened it and felt largely nonplussed. The t-shirt looked decent quality but the design was pretty horrid and last time I checked I had over 100 running tops (I stopped counting at 100 as it seemed too excessive to admit). I had a top I wouldn’t wear and a medal I wasn’t sure what to do with as I already had one for the marathon I ran that day.
Remembering that there is often a market for London Marathon stuff I checked eBay and was shocked.
Some sellers were listing at as much as £600, although the average sale price seemed to be around the £80-£100 price. For a finishers pack from a race that cost £20 to enter (or £25 if you were international and needed it posted abroad). True it sold out, but took several weeks and anyone could have entered, opened the app, ridden the distance on a bike or horse if they so wished and claimed the finishers pack.
So after an afternoon of pondering I went for it. Added the race bibs for extra attraction and stuck the lot on eBay, starting at £30 with a buy it now of £80.
Listed at 7:34pm.
Sold for £80 plus the postage at 7:51pm.
Maybe I undercharged? There were still auctions up running far lower, so maybe I hit the sweet spot of a buy it now just low enough to entice people who didn’t want to wait on an auction finishing.
Who buys medals?
Yeah I never really knew either. I guess for an event like London, a full set of finishers medals from every year would be a pretty neat display piece on your wall. If you lost your medal you might want a replacement but so close to the event sending them out I’d have been tempted to contact the organisers and claim it was lost in the post rather than pay £80 for one. Other than that I was at a loss.
So I asked the buyer.
Lets call him Bob just in case he wants anonymity. He was quick to respond and advised he had a charity spot for London (the April ‘real’ one) but due to admin problems between the organisers and the charity he didn’t get a place in the October virtual and it was presumably sold out before he could enter directly. Having heard some issues from previous years this is understandable. Charities aren’t always on top of these things on a normal year, never mind a Covid year with completely different key dates and procedures.
Bob decided to run the marathon distance on the 4th October (the date of the virtual one) anyway to raise money for charity and wanted to treat himself to the medal as it was his first marathon. We exchanged a few messages about how hard running your first one on your own would have been and he recounted how his wife and kids came out at intervals to support on his first go at the distance. He’s since got a spot for London 2022 so intends to run at least one more.
Did he sound genuine? Completely.
Could he be a trader looking to buy it and sell on? Could be. Although after paying £83 his margin would be relatively small unless he wanted to chance his arm at the £600 Buy-It-Now end which I hope NOBODY pays.
Are you sad you sold your medal? Nope.
Do you feel bad about the price? A bit. When it was selling to a faceless oddity who wanted to buy a medal for a race they didn’t do just for bragging rights it was a fun social experiment. Now I’ve put a name (not actually Bob) to the buyer and learnt he was running for charity it feels unsettling.
What are you going to do? Several things. I popped a signed copy of “Run Like Duck” in there to hopefully motivate him to keep running (or at least be used for kindling if the winter is cold) and I’ve asked for his Just Giving page.
More metal more cash?
Out of interest I did a quick eBay historical search for some of my other medals.
- London Marathon 2012 – often unsold around the £5-£10 range but some have sold at £45
- London Marathon 2013 – similar to above, you might get £3-£4, you could get lucky with a Buy It Now around £45
- London Marathon 2015 – less for sale, and lots at £70 unsold. A couple sold around the £25 range
- Chicago Marathon 2019 – None in UK but some in USA going for equivalent of £50 if you could be bothered with international postage
So clearly there is a market out there but it pays to make your mind up and sell quickly for the best return. You might well cover your entry cost, you might even raise enough for the next couple of races and I guess getting something you don’t want into the hands of someone who does is ultimately a fair exchange.